US wireless carrier T-Mobile is getting into the in-home internet space, but the company is starting small.
T-Mobile is launching an invitation-only pilot program that will let up to 50-thousand households in “rural and underserved areas of the country” use the company’s 4G LTE network in their homes by the end of the year.
Those who sign up will get speeds of “around 50 Mbps” for $50 per month when they sign up for automatic payments. And there are no data caps.
T-Mobile says it’s keeping its target numbers pretty small this year due to “LTE network and spectrum capacity constraints,” but that it hopes to be able to expand rapidly… particularly if US regulators approve the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.
If that merger goes through, T-Mobile says that by 2024 the combined company could be able to offer 5G service with speeds of 100 Mbps or higher to as many as 9.5 million households by 2024.
Interestingly, the press release also throws around phrases like “half of U.S. zip codes” and “half of U.S. households.” Reading between the lines I’m guessing that means T-Mobile expects its 5G network to cover half the country in terms of geography… but doesn’t expect to have enough bandwidth to offer service to every single household in those locations.
But odds are T-Mobile will have plenty of competition by 2024.
Right now the company is able to compare its $50/month for 50 Mbps service to cable, fiber and other services which regularly cost substantially more. But as competitors including Verizon and T-Mobile begin to deploy 5G technology, it’s likely that folks shopping for in-home internet service will start to see more choices.
For now, starting with rural and underserved communities seems like a smart move. Part of the reason it’s hard to get broadband internet service in some of these locations is because of the high cost of deploying traditional wired networking technology. Wireless technology could make it much more cost-effective to bring high-speed internet access to those households… and focusing on this space first may also be a calculated move on T-Mobile’s part as it tries to convince regulators to approve its merger with Sprint.